Middle East studies in the News
Columbia Must Be Chastised for Massad Debacle
by James F. Gennaro
When Columbia University granted tenure to Associate Professor Joseph Massad, the school turned its back on the Jewish community.
The university turned its back on Jewish alumni and donors by taking extraordinary measures to protect the secrecy of Massad's tenure case. It turned its back on the trustees when it refused to share who was being considered for tenure. And it turned its back on the tenure committee when it gave in to Dean of Arts and Sciences Nicholas Dirks's lobbying effort for a second tenure hearing after Massad was denied in 2007 - an exception rarely granted.
This is unfortunate because the promotion of Massad is a degradation of academic discourse and a cheapening of Columbia's Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies, one of the most prestigious institutions in the country.
Other major universities announce tenure decisions to the public. Yale provided the New York Daily News with the status of three junior faculty members upon request. And Princeton regularly publishes faculty promotions in its bulletin.
Tenure should be reserved for faculty members who are established authorities in their respective fields of study. Massad has done nothing more than act as a contrarian to the well-respected and grounded academic scholarship of Jewish Studies.
It is reprehensible for Columbia University to offer a tenured professorial position to Massad and place him within the ranks of the nine Nobel Laureates currently on staff at the school.
Much has been written about Massad, associate professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University, whose academic work is used as fodder for anti-Semitic and anti-Israel polemics. There is no excuse for Columbia offering him a soapbox with tenure.
Massad gained notoriety a few years ago with such outrageous acts as threatening to expel a student from class for challenging his Israel-is-evil point of view, demanding a student who formerly served in the Israeli army to tell how many Palestinians he killed, and comparing Israelis to Nazis. Massad further accuses Zionists of unjustly reaping the fruit of the land from Palestinian peasants.
The 2004 film "Columbia Unbecoming" chronicles his intimidation of students' pro-Israel viewpoints and prompted Congressman Anthony Weiner to call on Columbia to fire Massad.
The university acknowledged that Massad "exceeded commonly accepted bounds" after a sham committee was convened in 2005 that ultimately absolved him of the accusations. This acknowledgment only succeeds in whitewashing the issue and propagates the problems on Columbia's campus.
Columbia's aloofness is intolerable and a slap in the face to its Jewish students, faculty, alumni and trustees.
Columbia's Jewish community boasts a thriving Hillel, a Jewish literary journal and an active chapter of AEPi, the Jewish fraternity. Its campus is replete with young men wearing yarmulkes and kosher food options. Allowing a voice like Massad to rant with such apparent abhorrence and disregard clouds free thought and the pursuit of truth for which Columbia is renowned.
As a former college professor, I am both saddened and outraged to see an institution of higher learning in New York City - particularly a prestigious university like Columbia - persist in a quest that undermines its own legitimacy and underscores its intolerance and discrimination.
I call upon the alumni, and on all people who donate resources to Columbia, to withhold their valuable support. It is my hope that the leadership and trustees of Columbia will ultimately come to their senses. Until then, however, I urge supporters of Columbia to send their money elsewhere.James F. Gennaro is a member of the New York City Council. He represents the 24th District in Queens, which includes the neighborhoods of Kew Gardens Hills, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood and Fresh Meadows. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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